The Context: Who is the Filipino Child
I would like to begin by identifying the Filipino Child. We cannot talk about transformed children's library services unless we have a good working knowledge of who we are providing services for or who we wish to empower through our services and programs. We need to always remind ourselves, as children's librarians that we wake up every morning to work in the library for the children who need us. Children may not tell us they need librarians, but they do! The adults who care for them and work with them, parents, teachers, caregivers, counselors and the like need partners. To quote an African proverb, "it takes a village to raise a child." We are part of that village. We are in this enterprise of rearing, teaching and caring for children who will become leaders of this nation and responsible citizens of the world. Most importantly, the Filipino children we provide services and programs for must grow up as empowered adults.
We are actually given a delicate task. It is not less important or more relevant than our counterparts in the school, college, research and special libraries. But the young adults and the grownups these librarians are servicing were children once. So, a question I would like us to think long after this conference is over is this: to what extent have we provided effective, efficient, meaningful and transformational children's library services? There must be a time and a place when and where we can talk about results, evidences and manners of evaluation of our services and programs. How can we transform continuously if we are comfortably seated in our comfort zones? We will not thrive when we stay in the status quo. Moreover, the children we serve will catch on this habit of complacency instead of imbibing the value and philosophy of lifelong learning.
In broad strokes, we need to remember that:
a. Children have needs.
Like all of us, children's basic needs must be provided for them. Food and nutrition. Health care. Safety and security. Education. They need to belong, to be appreciated, to achieve, to love and be loved.
b. Children have rights.
The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child identifies nine most important children's rights.
1. The right to life.
2. The right to freely express his or her opinion.
3. The right to an identity, including citizenship, a name and family ties.
4. The right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.
5. The right not to be separated from his/her parents against their will.
6. The right to have a name and acquired citizenship, and where possible, the right to know his or her parents and receive their care.
7. The right to standard of living required for physical, intellectual, spiritual, moral and social development, as well as the right to education, rest and leisure.
8. The right to freedom of association, peaceful gatherings, and other such rights.
9. The right to have regular and personal and direct contact with both parents (if separated).
c. Children learn.
Children learn in different ways, in varied styles and modalities. Learning is very much a part of a growing child's life and the environment he or she lives in contribute greatly to his or her development as a person. A better understanding of the brain and how it develops can help us understand the learning child's needs. Looking at the learning from an oral, aural, visual and kinesthetic modalities
As children's librarians, we can contextualize our library services and programs to the needs, the rights and the learning capabilities of the children we serve. When we prepare our collection development program, we take into consideration not only the budget and logistics of the program, but likewise, the children who will read and use the library's collection. When we design a children's section in the library, we see this area as a learning environment where children can frequently visit and stay on for hours reading, playing and discovering new ideas and ways of knowing them. When we plan library activities that foster learning and literacy, we need to involve them and get feedback from them especially after the activity has been completed. Having children participate in our work in the library opens up a learning opportunity not only for children for us too. In short, the age of participation should not only occur online and in social media. It should also happen in real life situations and the library is one venue where children can be active participants to the library's many programs and services.
Going micro, let us look at the Filipino child. Living in an archipelago, our children's profile is as varied as the many kakanin and rice cakes we serve and eat for merienda. But to know them better, we can look at the environment and the time that our Filipino children are growing up in.
Our Filipino children are growing up in a fast paced world driven by technology and media. Knowledge creation and knowledge sharing is the world's economic dictum. Climate has changed drastically. There are breakouts of diseases in different parts of the globe. War and conflict does not seem to end. Bullying exists in the classroom and in government offices. Moral decline is the trend especially among our local government officials and heads of state. The traditional dynamics of family life and the values we grew up knowing is being challenged by these technological, economic, cultural and sociological changes. The problems the world comes face to face with affects us in global proportions. What a dangerous, yet exciting time for a child to grow up in!
Given these global challenges, the Filipino child of today will be a Filipino person of tomorrow who is very different from whom they are now. We cannot separate the Filipino child with the world. In line with ASEAN 2015, there is a great demand to strengthen the knowledge and skills base of our educational system. Thus, our DepEd has been working doubly hard on the K-12 program and reformed curriculum.
Where do we fall in the scheme of things? If we call ourselves children's librarians, how are we contributing to the mission of the global village in raising empowered children? What support and initiatives have we started and set up to contribute to the DepEd's K-12 program? How are our library programs and services enriching the lives of the children we serve but the parents, teachers, care givers, counselors and stake holders of the community who are just as responsible for their well being? What local and international partnerships have we collaborated with to install transformative programs in our libraries thereby creating an impact to the community we serve? Have we taken care of ourselves too? How do we respond to these global problems and demands of the 21st century?
It is a time to ask hard questions. Our culture of ambivalence need to change, if not drastically, then slowly and with much thought and reflection.
I look at the program and I feel positive that many of my hard questions will be answered as the conference rolls along. In fact, these questions may have been answered already by the two resource speakers who spoke before me. So, allow me now to discuss the last two topics that, I believe has a strong connection to the mission we do as children's librarians. The literature that our children read and the technology they tinker with as a tool and an environment that, when designed, managed and properly facilitated to children, can propel them towards empowerment and transformation.